Monthly Archives: February 2012

No Strings Attached by Mina V. Esguerra

I’ve been coming across blog posts about the author, Mina V. Esguerra, and her works for quite some time now. Although I’m not much into Filipino novels, this definitely caught my attention. Hence, I decided to give her works a try.

I wanted to try out My Imaginary Ex first, but after searching for that book in bookstores, they can’t seem to have available copies of it, so I bought No Strings Attached instead.

Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:

Carla is a whiz at her job: she’s efficient, reliable, and a total genius when it comes to putting something together at the last minute. The snag is she’s single and turning the big three-oh in a few months. Her girl best friend (yes, she’s married just like the other girls in Carla’s barkada) keeps trying to set her up with stable banker-types, while her guy best friend (single – the other single one) encourages her to play the field – no strings attached. Then, through no set up or extraordinary circumstance, Carla meets Dante. Hot, smug, sexy Dante. Definitely not a banker-type and seemingly too good to be true. So there’s got to be a catch. There is. He’s five years younger. Is the universe telling Carla to finally let loose and enjoy a fling with a younger man? Or is there a lot more to this awkward situation that she bargained for?

Turning thirty years old and still single is not something most people would look forward to. In the book’s case, that’s how Carla’s friends feel when Carla has remained single despite a few dates and short relationships. Her Girl Best Friend, Mary, would often set her up on blind dates, but Carla isn’t in a hurry. Plus, even though some of her blind dates seem promising, who can undoubtedly provide for a family in the future, Carla just hasn’t set her mind in that phase of life yet… until she meets Dante. It’s kind of hard for me to imagine an older woman dating a younger man, but while Carla seems a bit hesitant at first, she just eventually goes with the flow.

Dante is merely twenty-four years old and while Carla decides to keep her relationship with Dante open and in a fling stage, everything starts to change as the story progresses. It’s amazing how Carla and Dante shared a mutual understanding even though they have different interests. I guess it boils down to their level of maturity. You see, Dante is not the usual immature 24-year-old guy we normally come across. Readers will actually be surprised by his maturity. His personality and looks are too appealing for one not to like him. He also has this confidence which makes him follow his heart without letting anyone stop him.  Aside from him being open to having a relationship with Carla, readers can surely tell that Dante wants a job where he’s passionate about, too, not just working for the sake of high salary and the like.

Don’t get me wrong. I am also amazed by Carla’s efficiency when it comes to organizing and planning events. She’s definitely reliable – makes one really want to have someone like her to work with. However, while she possesses this impressive ability, she still has to work with her emotions, especially on how she handles her feelings in some parts of the book.

I really like how this book is able to show how people usually react when a couple enters into a relationship when a woman is older than a man. It makes readers actually weigh the pros and cons of it.  Aside from this, this book makes one gain some realizations about friendship, love, and life in general. It’s really great to learn how true Carla’s friends are, especially Mary and Tonio. They’re always on the look out for Carla and seeing how concerned they are proves that that kind of friendship is hard to come by. Furthermore, readers will slowly learn to grasp that as we grow older, the topics we talk about with friends change overtime. We get to realize that we tend to make things a little bigger than they really are. It makes me reflect about it, agree with it, and laugh as I look back through the times when I made little things turn into such a drama.

It’s fun to read something different once in a while. This is my first time to read a chick lit novella in a local setting written by a Filipino author. I find the story interesting even though I can’t put myself in Carla’s situation. But I still ended up enjoying it and it certainly did not disappoint me.

As much as this is a love story, I guess this book is also about building self-confidence and esteem. I will definitely pick up more of Mina V. Esguerra’s books. I’m now eyeing for My Imaginary Ex. Can somebody help me find a copy of it?


MV Logos Hope: A Floating Library Adventure

A few months ago, I suddenly thought of the Doulos Ship and wondered when it will visit Manila again. I, then, surfed through the internet to gather some information about it and found out that Doulos is non-existent already. What replaced this ship is the MV Logos Hope.

MV Logos Hope docked first in Cebu sometime in January this year until mid-February. I got very excited that I researched more to find out if it will come to Manila. I couldn’t find anything yet, but with much patience, I finally found a certain website specifying and confirming the schedule of its arrival in Manila. It’s been more than ten (10) years since I’ve been to a floating book fair and I just couldn’t let this opportunity slip again. I kept telling myself that I must certainly visit MV Logos Hope.

My initial plan was to visit the ship with my friend sometime early March, but yesterday, around 7:30am, my mom suddenly came barging into our room to invite my sisters and me to come with her to visit the ship. My sisters couldn’t go, so my mom and I were the only ones able to go.

The MV Logos Hope is docked in Manila South Harbor. Going there is kind of difficult because of vehicle congestion. I guess it took us around an hour to reach the ship. Upon our arrival, the sky started to darken more. My mom and I forgot to bring down our umbrellas from the car. Good thing we entered the ship just in time when it began to drizzle.

It wasn’t that crowded when we entered the ship. I was actually expecting that a lot of people will be going given that it’s a weekend. Anyway, moving on, once on board, visitors are given five (5) different stages to get an experience of the ship. The first one, the Lifeboat Theater, is where the guests will learn about what it’s like to live on the ship. Afterwards, they can explore the illustrated history of GBA ships.

The next stage is where all visitors are greatly looking forward to – the Book Fair. This stage actually takes up more space than the others. The visitors will be indulged in this section filled with books. The variety of books displayed on the shelf is far different than what we normally see in bookstores. The genres range from fiction, children’s books, biographies, and cook books to spiritual books and music.

There are so many books to choose from, but I don’t want my impulsive buying behavior to overcome me, so I just bought books that look promising and will surely be read. The prices of books are very affordable as they are based on the number of units indicated on the book. For example, if a book costs 100 units, then it’s priced at Php100.

After which, visitors will be transported to the third stage, the Journey of Life. It’s a story about a prodigal son conveying a message of how our choices and decisions affect our lives. I wasn’t able to take pictures of it, but I can assure you that it’s a short yet enjoyable walk. The walls are painted with illustrations where visitors can stop, appreciate, and reflect on them. A background voice guides the visitors throughout the story.

And lastly, the final stage is the International Café where visitors can rest and enjoy eating some snacks before heading home.

Overall, I enjoyed this trip to MV Logos Hope. It’s really nice to know that even though the volunteers are not greatly compensated, they still devote their lives to bring knowledge, help, and hope to the people of the world, as well as to spread the Word of God through this amazing floating library. I will definitely look forward to its future visits in Manila.

Located in Manila South Harbor, the MV Logos Hope is open to public from February 17, 2012 to March 13, 2012 from 10:30am – 9:30pm during Tuesdays to Saturdays, and from 1:00pm to 9:30pm during Sundays.  An entrance fee of Php20 is required for visitors over 13 years old.

Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham (with illustrations by Mark Buckingham)

Ever since my cousin introduced me to Fables, I was immediately hooked by this graphic novel series! I never expected the storyline of Fables to be that interesting, and even the idea of having crossovers of fairy tale characters is just as brilliant. Reading Fables is like reliving my childhood memories once again, adding it with deeper messages for mature readers intended by the author. I am amazed by Bill Willingham’s masterpiece and by Mark Buckingham’s artistic skills. And their recent work, Down the Mysterly River, surely did not disappoint me. They, without a doubt, lived up to my expectations.

Here’s the plot description from the cover flap of the book:

Max “the Wolf” is a top-notch Boy Scout, an expert at orienteering, and a master of being prepared. So it is a little odd that he suddenly finds himself, with no recollection of his immediate past, lost in an unfamiliar wood. Even odder still, he encounters a badger named Banderbrock, a black bear named Walden, and McTavish the Monster (who might also be an old barn cat)—all of whom talk—and who are as clueless as Max.

Before long, Max and his friends are on the run from a relentless group of hunters and their deadly hounds. Armed with powerful blue swords and known as the Blue Cutters, these hunters capture and change the very essence of their prey. For what purpose, Max can’t guess. But unless he can solve the mystery of the strange forested world he’s landed in, Max may find himself and his friends changed beyond recognition, lost in a lost world…

Down the Mysterly River – just by the title of the book itself intrigued me and convinced me enough to buy a copy, apart from it being a work of Bill Willingham. For one thing, at a glance, something is already off in the title. I have never encountered the word “mysterly” before, as I know that that word is misspelled and doesn’t exist in dictionaries. Mystery is what sounded right, but as I further read through the pages of this book, I finally understand how the title came to be, as well as how the word mysterly exists in this mysterly world Bill Willingham creates. It’s actually quite a funny discovery and I’m sure readers will enjoy this book.

The storyline build-up is so intense that readers also get to participate in solving the mystery behind Max and his friends’ sudden appearances in an unfamiliar world. The main characters are hoping to find someone who can answer their never-ending questions and with the aid of an unexpected friend, they seek out to reach the Wizard Swift’s sanctuary. Along the way, the so-called Blue Cutters are making a hindrance to their plans. It will take much courage and sacrifice to arrive at their destination and Max and his friends will never give up that easily.

I love the unique character development each character possesses. Max the Wolf is good at solving mysteries. He may just be a boy, but he already has an attribute of a true Boy Scout – he is courageous, strategic, and wise and seems to be more mature than any boys of his age. Banderbrock, on the other hand, should never be judged by his physical appearance. He may be small in size, but he proves to be a brave soldier. Furthermore, Walden the black bear has a heart as large as his size and he cherishes and cares for his friends more than anything. And lastly, McTavish the “monster” may seem rude, but he certainly has a soft spot on his newly-found friends. The four of them may be different, but they also make a great team together.

I am so immersed in the story that I keep on reading, eager to know what will happen next. It makes me want to be there with the characters and partake in their journey together and help them. But, of course, a girl can dream because despite my said desire, in reality, I’m not as adventurous as I want myself to be. I’m just glad that Bill Willingham is able to give me this opportunity to enjoy the book.

I believe what Max and his friends have experienced isn’t bad at all. Sometimes, even if it’s dangerous, I guess it’s significant to be lost in the world once in a while. This will definitely make one become open to unbelievable/unknown possibilities and drop any hint of preconceived notions about norms or social classes or beliefs, which may bring good outcomes in the end. Keeping an open mind is significant in shaping one’s being and view in life. Plus, one may get to meet and earn true friends along the way.

I am amazed by how Bill Willingham formed the storyline with much creativeness that it’s filled with surprising twists. As the story progresses, more questions will be formulated, but towards the end of the book, it will definitely leave readers satisfyingly full of answers with shocking revelations. And I’m glad by the turnout of events. I wouldn’t have asked for another ending than this.

This book certainly provides a great avenue to gain a lot of insights and lessons. Aside from it being a work of fiction, I believe the author also intends to add literary and political themes in this book which can be applied in real life, such as the concept of freedom. With much depth in the message, it will make readers ponder its true meaning. Moreover, this book is not just about enjoying the adventures and mysteries being presented to the characters. It also tackles the value of true friendship. Evident in the book, no matter how diverse in kinds Max and his friends are, for better or worse, they are able to show that they have each other’s backs as they face their endeavours.

I truly recommend this book to everyone. This book will not let you down! It deserves a five-star rating. A great and enjoyable read, indeed.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Before, I’ve only heard of John Green as the author who wrote An Abundance of Katherines. I didn’t buy his book then, since I thought I’m not his target market. I just came across its title because of the mathematical content the book has, according to the reviews and summaries I’ve read, which would be a suitable gift to someone who likes math. I actually planned to buy it for a friend, but eventually, it didn’t happen.

Recently, after hearing his newly released book which everyone is looking forward to and making a fuss over it, I decided to buy a copy of The Fault in Our Stars. Plus, it was also confirmed that John Green signed all the first printing copies which totaled to 150,000 copies and I’m actually glad to be a part of that – I got a green signature!

Here’s the plot description from the cover flap of the book:

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely written.

It is evident that this book is about the budding relationship between Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters. John Green creates these characters realistically – making the readers relate to them more easily. They’re definitely going through rough times, yet they still endured the pain and suffering until the end. Despite being victims of cancer illness at such an early age, they’re actually no different from normal people. They have loved one another like any other, travelled like any other, and lived their lives to the fullest. One of the things I notice that differs them from the others is their deep perspective of the world as they look at it with profound and well-thought curiosity. I believe no one could match their level of intelligence in their own unique way.

In addition to this, I also salute their strength of facing the inevitable and their extraordinary love/relationship they share with one another. They have complex characterizations which make the book more interesting to read. Hazel is never afraid to express her thoughts and feelings. On the other hand, Augustus’s thoughtful and sweet gestures for Hazel justify his character of being a good friend as well as a gentleman. I just love the fact that John Green is able to show Hazel and Augustus’s vulnerability as they slowly open up to one another. This very situation intertwined their lives in most unexpected ways. It makes me sympathize with them more.

The story definitely keeps getting better and better as I move from one page to another that I have to literally stop myself from turning to the last page for the ending. (This is actually a bad habit of mine – reading the last few pages to spoil myself even when I am still far from the ending. Oh I hope I can remove that habit of mine.) John Green is truly able to capture every moment a cancer survivor could feel. There are parts of the book, however, which reminded me a bit of A Walk to Remember.

Moving on, it’s always nice to read about characters who enjoy reading. And I kind of envy the part where Augustus gave Hazel a book. I just recently discovered my passion for reading and as I take pleasure in the simplicity of things, I don’t deny the fact that I LOVE to receive a book as a gift more that anything else.

Moreover, one way or another, I really like the idea of authors and readers having the opportunity to communicate with one another. Especially with the availability of internet nowadays, this interaction becomes easier. It really provides an avenue where readers get to share their thoughts and feelings about the masterpiece written by the author, and where authors get to appreciate and thank their readers for continual support.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book. It opened my mind to concepts about illness, cancer survivors, death, and about the world in general. I am amused by John Green’s usage of language and how he structures the sentences. It’s written so creatively, with wit and depth, which leave readers to ponder its philosophical and metaphorical meanings. The story may have a bittersweet ending, but I can confidently say that Augustus and Hazel, without a doubt, left heroic scars in each and every reader’s hearts.